In 1959, Northwood Country Club and its golf course were designed on what was then a rural piece of land 25 miles north of Atlanta.
Since then, the area around it has become more densely populated. Gwinnett Place Mall opened nearby off Pleasant Hill Drive in the early 1980s. These days, the country club’s 220 acres are in the middle of bustling suburbs a few miles away from the mall and Interstate 85.
Northwood claims to be Gwinnett County’s oldest private club, but it may be ready to surrender that title.
Members received a letter via email signed by ClubCorp Senior Vice President Dan Hewitson on Saturday that the club would close at the end of September.
“The Club’s closure comes after many thoughtful discussions about our ability to ensure the continuation of the services that you, as a Member, have come to expect,” the letter sent to members said.
Why exactly the country club is closing and what will happen to the land is a bit of a mystery. There was no explanation given in the letter that went out to members and there’s been little to no communication about why the land was possibly sold or to what entity the course was sold.
A comment from ClubCorp Communications Director Patty Jerde simply said the closure is a business decision for the company.
“While ClubCorp actively acquires and occasionally sells clubs, it is our policy not to comment until transactions are finalized,” his statement said.
Meanwhile, there’s been no formal or public announcement of the closure other than the message to the country club’s members. Northwood’s website shows photos of the pristine course and other amenities offered by the country club, and it still displays a button where people can click to sign up for memberships.
Ten-year member and Buford resident Jim Brown said many members feel abandoned.
“Many other guys have been there for 30 years,” Brown said. “We’ve been very loyal members.”
Members said there were clues that something was going on behind closed doors over the past year. Brown said he and some fellow members saw surveyors on the course in the woods from time to time.
But Brown said surveyors and employees with the country club said the surveying was routine. He told the Daily Post the explanation didn’t sound right.
He also said there were also some damaged parts of the course — a bridge over a stream, for example — that had been in need of repairs since last winter. Brown said employees with the country club would “give us the run-around” when questioned about when repairs would be made.
“The members feel betrayed,” Brown said. “They can sell their property — that’s their right — but don’t lie to us.”
Since the closure was announced last weekend, there’s been little response from Club Corps to the questions and pleas of Northwood Country Club Members.
When reached for comment, Northwood Country Club General Manager Dick Lyons deferred Daily Post reporters to corporate officials with Club Corp. Brown said he had no qualms with Lyons, who took over as the course’s general manager within the past year.
“We should get a call back out of appreciation of being good, solid members,” Brown said.
ClubCorp is a Dallas-based corporation and the largest owner and operator of private golf and country clubs in the country. It operates a handful of local golf clubs, including Bear’s Best in Suwanee, the Hamilton Mill Golf Club, Olde Atlanta Golf Club and Country Club of the South.
The letter sent out to members offers two open house events at Northwood to encourage members to find other ClubCorp country clubs.
Brown said he and some of his close friends haven’t decided if they would seek memberships outside of ClubCorp. The perks of a ClubCorp membership, which allow golfers to play affiliated courses for cart fees only, may be too much to pass up, he said.
“They pull the rug out of us and give us three weeks,” Brown said. “They say, ‘We’ll send reps from other clubs so you can join those clubs.’ It takes a lot of gall to do that. We appreciate that and know there are advantages to being a ClubCorp member, but it leaves a bad taste."